Through the first three weeks of the season, it’s evident the New York Jets offense has a problem. The team’s entire offensive philosophy had to be redone after Aaron Rodgers got hurt. Against three talented defenses, the Jets have only four touchdowns this season, half of which belong to Garrett Wilson. While it’s noble of Zach Wilson to lead this team, it’s clear he’s not what fans hoped for as a second-overall pick. It doesn’t help that Randall Cobb is still seeing playing time. For this offense to change, New York must make a change at wide receiver. Fortunately, New York has a two-time Super Bowl Champion that could help. It’s time for Nathaniel Hackett to get Mecole Hardman more involved.
The long-time Kansas City Chief came to New York expecting to become more of a focal point on offense after capturing his second Super Bowl ring. Yet, the veteran has been unable to see meaningful snaps. Hardman played with the best quarterback in the league in Patrick Mahomes and a revolutionary head coach in Andy Reid. As a result, New York has no excuse not to involve the former All-Pro wide receiver on an offense that desperately needs a breath of fresh air.
This Two Time Super Bowl Champion Can Save the Jets’ Offense
Before holding the Lombardi trophy for the second time in his career, Mecole Hardman was at the University of Georgia. Although he saw limited playing time as a freshman, Hardman was able to contribute on offense and on special teams. Georgia’s run-heavy offense with Nick Chubb and Sonny Michel created limited opportunities. However, Hardman managed to contribute 13 total touchdowns and 961 receiving yards between the two seasons. His most memorable play came in the National Championship game against Alabama, with an 80-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter.
Learning from greatness
Although he left without a National Championship, Hardman received an incredible opportunity when he entered the NFL. He entered the 2019 draft and was selected in the second round by the Kansas City Chiefs with the 56th pick. Hardman’s rookie season was better than they hoped with him contributing both as a kick returner and wide receiver. Hardman finished with 704 yards on special teams, including a 104-yard touchdown. Along with 538 receiving yards on 26 catches and 6 touchdowns, Hardman finished with second-team All-Pro honors. Kansas City would go on to capture their second Super Bowl in franchise history in a 31-20 victory over San Francisco.
Hardman produced the following season as well but was overshadowed by Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. He contributed 560 receiving yards and four touchdowns as the Chiefs returned to the Super Bowl once again. This time, Kansas City would end up losing to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The following season, Hardman had a career-high in receiving yards with 693 yards, but only had two touchdowns because he lost red-zone targets to Byron Pringle and DeMarcus Robinson. The Chiefs made a major change by trading Tyreek Hill to Miami. The goal was for Mecole Hardman to gain more targets. Unfortunately, an abdominal injury ended his regular season in November. Despite managing to return in the AFC Championship game, he re-aggravated his injury and missed the Super Bowl.
Why Mecole Hardman can help fix the Jets’ offense?
Mecole Hardman’s greatest strength has been his speed. The now 25-year-old amazed scouts with 4.33 time on his 40-yard dash at the 2019 NFL combine. It allowed him to contribute to Kansas City early on special teams. Now fully recovered from his abdominal injury, his elusiveness can be an asset for a stagnant team like the Jets. Zach Wilson needs all the help he can get after his poor play thus far. Randall Cobb brings valuable experience but is years removed from his prime to be the third target at wide receiver.
Zach Wilson cannot elevate this offense from his production, so the offense must adapt to his strengths(for now). Involving Hardman in the running game with jet-sweeps can open a new dynamic for the offense. It will prevent teams from loading the box for the running game to produce. It will also allow the secondary to focus less on Garrett Wilson and Allen Lazard to create more openings for them. More snaps for a talented run blocker like Jeremy Ruckert will also take advantage of Hardman’s speed. Creating underneath routes for Hardman will also force Zach Wilson to improve his short passing. If they can take advantage of the secondary focus on Wilson and Lazard, it can create opportunities for Hardman and passes in the backfield.
Aaron Rodgers’s injury forced a lot of unexpected changes for this season, but that doesn’t mean the goal for the playoffs is obsolete. New York is at the mercy of a difficult schedule before the bye-week. However, that doesn’t mean they’re out of the wildcard hunt. If the defense can perform up to expectations and the offense undergoes genuine change, the Jets might end their 12-year streak of missing the playoffs.
Main Photo: [Vincent Carchietta] – USA Today Sports